It's the 1980s and at McKinley High, there's two different groups of teenagers, the Freaks with cool and charismatic Daniel Desario and tomboy Lindsay Weir and the Geeks with Lindsay's shy younger brother Sam, gentle Bill Haverchuck, and self-proclaimed ladies' man Neal Schweiber. The show chronicles the normal teen/adolescence problems any teenager goes through including acceptance, drugs, drinking, and bullying. Written by
Corey Semple (Hairsprayer07)
Perfect Television (only a network executive couldn't love it)
Network: NBC; Genre: Drama/Comedy; Content Rating: TV-PG (for language,
drug use and adult content); Available: on DVD; Perspective: Modern
Classic (star range: 1 - 5);
Season Reviewed: Completed Series (1 season)
There are few shows, currently on the air or in the entire pantheon of
television, that are so obviously crafted with as much love as 'Freaks
and Geeks'. Created by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow, 'Freaks'
crackles with an honest writing and flawless chemistry and creates it's
own wonderful universe. To watch the show is to be awash in details and
obvious care that was taken to make it.The high school series has never
been so real.
'Freaks' follows a group of geeks and a group of burnouts at McKinley
High School in 1980, both of which centering around the Weir siblings.
Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) is our heroine whose rebellion from the
Mathlete life and into the world of the burn-outs (with the terrific
James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen & Busy Philipps) creates a domino
effect that the entire series spins on. Sam Weir (John Francis Daley)
is an underdeveloped geek whose unrequited love of cheerleader Cindy
Sanders (Natasha Melnick, perfectly cast) drives much of the geek story
lines. Sam faces the torment and humiliation of daily life in high
school with friends Neil and Bill (wildly underrated, star-making Samm
Levine and Martin Starr, respectively). The show is a badge of honor
for all involved.
The school is populated with a fully realized universe of supporting
characters from Lindsey's church-going friend Millie to Dungeon master
Harris to Mr. Rosso (David "Gruber" Alan, hilariously stealing any
scenery not bolted down) - the school guidance counselor without any
boundary for the inappropriate. . No more accurate depiction of the
look and feel of high school (or the hell that was high school
depending on your perspective) TV has ever seen.
Becky Ann Baker and Joe Flaherty make the perfect '50s era parents.
Flaherty comes off the most over-the-top, but even that fits the
vision. The dinner table scenes between the Weir family are so
uncharacteristically happy and intentionally corny that it will surely
be off-putting to the average cynical viewer. Years before "The Office"
made embarrassment and viewer discomfort into a science, "Freaks and
Geeks" was doing a similar thing, effectively making us really feel Sam
and Lindsey's embarrassment over their parent's behavior. I
particularly like the set design of the Weir house, and the show in
general. "Freaks" is set in 1980 but designed with 50s, 60s and 70s
paraphernalia. Unlike the many fast food period pieces now, - "That 70s
Show", "The Wedding Singer", "American Dreams" - where the decade is
treated like a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, the decade doesn't turn
over to 1980 and suddenly everyone runs out and buys parachute pants
and the Thriller album.
The self-professed anti-'Dawson's Creek', the series is almost as
distinctive for what it isn't than for what it is. It isn't a flashy
show with 20-something preps playing high school kids set to blaring
Top 40 pop songs where the biggest problems among the characters
include juggling two hot dates on the same night. In other shows - most
overly concerned with what the consuming public thinks of them, the
geeks and the burnouts are fringe groups usually given as much thought
as the potted plant in the corner, or used as 1-joke stereotypes.
'Freaks and Geeks' is the first show to acknowledge that they may be
more interesting. They don't participate in the high school caste
system and they muse about never being able to get girls.
I love the way the show's camera lingers on faces and soaks up
Cardellini's incredible expressions. It rests on the kids as they sit
and talk about their favorite drummer or the TV show they watched last
night just like everyone does. At an hour the show allows for those
quite moments. Just as it takes time out to do elaborate mid-show set
pieces like an action movie-like dodge ball sequence or a violent spat
between Kim Kelly (Philips) and her parents. The series is packed with
these unforgettable little moments - heart-breaking and screaming
funny, sometimes all at once. In 18 episodes it says more than most
shows ever do: the geeks watching their first porno, the freaks getting
their first fake IDs, the family catastrophes in Niel and Bill's homes
and the painfully real crush Sam has on Cindy. Their world doesn't
always a happy ending and awkwardness and embarrassment rule the day.
The fact that 'Freaks and Geeks' wasn't given a chance to make it by
NBC is a sad testament to how network executives box in their viewers
to find a ratings silver bullet. No matter, these 18 episodes are
self-containing and fully satisfying enough to get over the sting of
the network apathy. I'll break a rule and do a little necessary
promotion here. All this is captured in a DVD set this show deserves,
with as much attention and love put into the extras (29 commentary
tracks!) that was put into the show. It is the single best DVD I've
Who knows if the show would have been able to keep it up as the kids
grew up and the show had to be written around it. As it stands, this is
like lightening captured in a bottle. That perfect mix of all the
elements coming together to make a truly classic series. No matter what
the future holds, "Freaks" has a reserved place in my heart. This is
really one for the ages, people. No list of modern classics is complete
without "Freaks and Geeks".
* * * * * / 5
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